Shelby Harris, the oldest verifiable living resident in Illinois and the oldest man in the United States, will celebrate his 111th birthday today, Saturday, with relatives and friends at the Rock Island Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, 2545 24th St.
Mr. Harris' day will begin with a birthday lunch of his favorite foods — catfish and collard greens, hush puppies, coleslaw, corn-on-the-cob and sweet potato pie.
The luncheon will be followed by a birthday party at 1 p.m. at the nursing home, where ice cream and cake will be served. Friends, relatives and members of his congregation, Second Baptist Church, will attend. Mr. Harris served as deacon of Second Baptist until he was 102 years old.
Mr. Harris will fulfill one of the wishes left on his "bucket list" Thursday when he throws out the first pitch on opening day for The River Bandits A minor league baseball game at 7 p.m. at Modern Woodmen Park, Davenport. Playing baseball and possibly getting married again are two things left on his list.
Born March 31, 1901, in southern Indiana, Mr. Harris first worked in the coal mines of the region. He moved to the Quad-Cities in 1942 before enlisting in the Army during World War II. He later took a job with the former Union Malleable, later the John Deere Foundry in East Moline.
He entered Rock Island Nursing & Rehabilitation Center when he was 105. He has outlived two wives and three daughters. He is a great-great-great-great grandfather. His youngest grandson is 57.
A grandson, Al Hurt, says his grandfather takes good care of himself and still has a good memory. Mr. Harris is a life-long Democrat, having voted for John F. Kennedy in 1960 and Barack Obama in 2008. Mr. Harris credits his longevity to his faith in God.
Today is Thursday, Dec. 12, the 346th day of 2013. There are 19 days left in the year. 1863 -- 150 years ago: Two boys who haul coal from Coal Valley to Davenport were arrested yesterday for running their teams through the city street at a furious rate. 1888 -- 125 years ago: E.H. Barker dislocated his left wrist and suffered a compound fracture of the right wrist when he fell from the roof of his icehouse. 1913 -- 100 years ago: Lou Harris was elected county superintendent of schools to fill the unexpired term of the late S.J. Ferguson. 1938 -- 75 years ago: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that a state must give equality in educational privileges to white and Negro law students. 1963 -- 50 years ago: About 300 employees of the Augustana Book Concern, staff members of the Board of Publication of the Lutheran Church in America, as well as friends of the community and out-of-town guests honored Dr. Birger Swenson at the annual Christmas dinner of the Augustana Book Concern last night in Westerlin Hall on the Augustana College campus. 1988 -- 25 years ago: The Christmas shopping season began early this year and continues to bring out shoppers in record numbers, according to Quad-Cities retailers interviewed today.